Friday, 30 October 2015


He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:13
It costs to care. I was chatting with a fellow minister of a church not in our tradition. We were discussing our commitment levels of our churches to the evangelism component of the Great Commission. He told me that in one church he was part of that if a visitor ever happened to turn up, most people in the church would deliberately completely ignore them (or worse) because they felt that visitors were "invaders"! In his current church he lamented that although they paid lip-service to reaching out, they didn't. "Our people are comfortable with each other, and reaching out to others is too uncomfortable for them", he admitted. He then said, "It costs to care. It costs comfort. It's too inconvenient." My heart sank as he told me this. It is my hope that our church will care - that we will have a heart for others. I want to issue a "Care Dare".
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
First Thessalonians 2:7
How often did Jesus walk into an environment with His disciples that was strange and unfamiliar to them? Often. Initially after Christ's resurrection and the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, believers were reluctant to "go" into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). Instead, they enjoyed thousands of people 'coming' to them. I suspect that the Father orchestrated this as any father would do to help his children gain the confidence to grow up by taking risks and at times experiencing necessary failures. But the first Church seems to have been reluctant to 'go'. Commencing with the persecution of Stephen in Acts 7, it seems that the Father brought a wave of persecution against His Church which had taken its comfortable seat in Jerusalem, despite being surrounded by a lost and needy world. Like any father teaching his son to ride a bike his first step is to give his son confidence and then it is necessary (yet painful) that he let his son fall. The way God treated His infant Church in Acts 2-4was not the same way that He treated his adolescent Church from Acts 8. And I suspect that He generally expects His Church to have matured  some since then, and treats us accordingly today. This means that while the Father 'held onto the bike' initially by bringing people to hear the Gospel when the Church started, we see that His heart was for His Church to go where unreached people were. God still wants His Church to go - to reach out- to care for others.

¶ Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confessionHebrews 3:1
What must it have been like for the Lord of Glory to leave Paradise, lay aside His glory and become a zygote? It cost Him. The Eternal One entered into time, forever. This cost Him. The Holy One dined with the unholy. Our Saviour paid a series of costs then the ultimate cost. As Hebrews 3:1 instructs, we should consider the cost that Christ has paid and therefore the cost involved in following Christ. The Gospel is free, but there is a cost which Jesus said must be 'counted' before someone could follow Him (Luke 14:28). Following Christ also has a cost which is described in Romans 12. 
¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1
To follow the Caring Christ is to increasingly become a carer ourselves. Battle-seasoned pastors are caring pastors who soon come to realise that they must do their job with two ears - one ear for the voice of the Lord and the other for the heart cries of those they minister to. Sit under the ministry of such a pastor and you'll soon find yourself beginning to listen with two ears as well. The battles that season such a pastor come when they fail to listen with both ears. Throughout their pastorate they receive scathing notes and letters from those they have disappointed which either make them or break them. Such pastors receive letters like this-
"I came to your church last Sunday after losing my brother to a long protracted battle with cancer. I came looking for hope - instead, I hardly felt welcomed at all. No one even said hello to me. No one asked me how I was. I came in with a heavy heart and left with an even heavier one. I don't go to a church and I thought you above all people might have been able to give me some comfort at this time. I don't want anything from you now but thought you might like to know how I was treated."

If you meet a seasoned pastor you are meeting a much criticised pastor. But the pastor who learns to care for his critics (rather than let them injure him) is the pastor who learns that criticism is sometimes a gift that enables them to more effectively care. Following the career of such a pastor from the days of his youthful enthusiasm to the days of his most fruitful season and you will notice two almost paradoxical things develop. The first is a tenderness toward people (the second I may discuss another day). He becomes softer. He is more easily moved to tears. He more naturally prays for those in his charge and feels wounded when someone speaks ill of their brother or sister under his oversight. He listens more closely to what his flock disclose to him. He learns that words are not always the best form of communication and often get in the way of what a heart can only say through a tear, an outburst, or a silence. This softening is seasoned by the times when he feels the pain of having not been as sensitive as he should have been to some hurting souls. These painful moments cause a seasoned-pastor to look at people differently, with compassion, with interest, with patience. It is every pastor's desire to impart this care for people to every member of his team. 
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ...And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 
One of the biggest dangers that an established church faces is complacency. This is when a congregation becomes comfortable with each other. They confuse their mutual friendship for friendliness. Yet the visitor to their church finds them unfriendly - even though they are friends with each other. This of course is an aspect of care. A church's care is done with two hands: one hand embracing each other, the other hand reaching out to others. But, if a congregation is not careful, it can becoming uncaring if it only uses one hand of these hands and ignores those it exists to reach out to with their other.  

Caring costs, but caring also rewards. Take a moment today and consider who Christ might care for through you. This Sunday someone will walk through the doors of our church for the first time. Will you show care for them? It starts with an greeting of introduction. It continues with an act of service. It is sealed with a sacrifice. It takes place in the work-place, the class-room, the bus-stop, the club. It begins with clichés, becomes an exchange of facts, moves to revealing opinions, and invites the other to explore the mysteries of God's Word through reading the stories of Jesus and discovering what these say, what they tell us about God, and what relevance it has for our lives.

Do we care for those we know, yet who do not yet know Christ? Will you join me in prayer that we might accept this dare to care so that we can be a church with two ears and two hands?
forgive us for being so pre-occupied with matters that detract us from worshipping You in our devotion and witness. May we hear Your voice. Grant us the grace to present our bodies and our minds to You as living sacrifices so that we can worship You with all aspects of our lives. Use us Lord to reach out to others with Your love and forgiving grace. May we hear the hearts of others. Fill our hearts with Your heart that we might see people differently. Help us to lay our lives down for Your glory as we willingly serve others. Cause us to show Your care to those who are lost, lonely, and longing.
In Jesus' Name,
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 23 October 2015


"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Revelation 22:13
How many apples are in an apple seed? The end is not always evident at the beginning. The leader is not always obvious in the larrikin. The preacher is not always obvious in the precocious. Potential delights itself in stunning the world. The first believers were stunned when Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle. Peter the Apostle was stunned when Cornelius and his household were dramatically saved. God sees our potential and in the New Testament we occasionally catch a glimpse of God speaking from His perspective of the end when potential has run its course.
and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Ephesians 2:6
God has potential for each local church. I suspect that too few local congregations ever learn how to realise their potential. As a result, many give up and cease to be open to what God may do in and through them. From our perspective, God's end for us is sometimes glimpsed but rarely visible. From our perspective,Saul is an enemy-for-life of the Church, Cornelius is a Roman Centurion who may well be trying to infiltrate the Church to identify its leaders for execution. But from God's perspective, Saul was always going to be Paul the Apostle and Cornelius was always a Spirit-filled Centurion follower of Christ. From God's perspective the small, struggling church on the banks of the Thames in the mide-1800s was always going to be Metropolitan Tabernacle led by the most unlikely of pastors (the 19 year-old Charles Spurgeon) with an average weekend attendance of 18,000. In a similar way, in February 1987 when a handful of sincere and newly Spirit-filled believers gathered in the Legana War Memorial Hall, God saw a significant church in what most considered to be an insignificant place where hundreds of people of all ages have come to Christ and more hurting, broken, people each week experience God's healing and wholeness, and many young men and women discover God's call on their life to preach, pastor, teach.

Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.John 4:35
I've met people with the gift of helps. They can't help but help. When they see someone in need, they help. When there's something that needs doing, they offer to help. Similarly, I've met exhorters and encouragers. In fact this week I met two. One's name was Phillip Mutzelburg and the other was Rod Dymock. They can't help themselves. They are humble, considerate, positive, excellent listeners and extremely interested in others. They exude encouargement. They can't help it. And in a preeminent way, Jesus is a Redeemer. He loves to take the outcast, the failure, the broken, the desperate, the lost, the lonely, the despised, the three-times bankrupt, and the devastated - and redeem them. He delights in taking a rejected brother condemned to do the family's worst job of looking after their few smelly sheep in the far-flung fields on Winter nights and redeeming them into much-beloved Warrior-Kings! THE Redeemer takes delight in knocking arrogant Pharisees off their horses on Damascus Roads and transforming them into powerful and humble apostolic preachers who would evangelise entire cities and so the seeds for entire continents being touched by the Gospel! 
Jesus continues to redeem today. He takes an abandoned single mother and opens one door after another for her to become who Christ the Redeemer had always planned for her to become - even though along the way she barely had the energy to get out of bed some mornings. He takes the abused and neglected son and transplants his heart of bitterness with a heart of love an compassion and leads him to commence an aid agency that would feed, clothe, house, and educate orphans around the globe. 

hopelessWe see some people as hopeless. God sees them as redeemed into their potential! We see an annoying kid who is loud and brash and yet God sees the same person as hurt and scared yet who would soon yield their life to His redeeming touch and become a world leading medical researcher responsible for finding a cure for Motor Neurone Disease. We see a church that has never been 'big' yet it has been faithful in small things for years, and then God graces them with one or two "sons of peace" as converts (see. Luke 10:6) who invite their friends and family members to church who in turn come to Christ and themselves invite their friends and families to church as well - and it appears to most that this Church is like that type of bamboo that seems to grow suddenly and rapidly. The Church that God sees is not the Church we yet see! Take a peak-
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Revelation 7:9-10
Perhaps this is why Paul in writing to the highly dysfunctional Corinthian Church and in the midst of his resultant discouragement could say-  
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Second Corinthians 5:7
When we walk by faith we take certain steps as if the end is certain. We sow. We water. We tend. We study. We train. We take risks. We invest. We exercise. We practice. It's always the little things that give us the biggest strides toward fulfilling our potential. A wayward youthnot thinking straight prays a desperate fifteen second prayer to a God he doesn't even know to redeem his life. His journey has now begun to reaching his potential and will be advanced by many more 15 second prayers. An overworked businessman agrees to meet with a colleague who loves Jesus and they spend 15 minutes of their lunch-time once a week to read one of Christ's stories, discuss it, consider what it says about God, them, and how they might shape their lives by this knowledge and finish by praying accordingly. His journey has now begun to becoming a renowned worship leader and song-writer. A drug-taking local football hero who denies that he drinks to excess sees an ad on TV for a local church and something within him tells he must go there. The following Sunday he sets foot through their doors and his journey to a Brownlow Medal where he declares before a viewing audience of millions of his faith in, and thankfulness to, Jesus the Christ which eventually sows the seeds for thousands of adoring fans to explore faith in Christ.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."John 4:38

All of this reminds me of Christ's parable of the ten virgins - five foolish and five wise (Matthew 25). I wonder how the 'wise' virgins felt when they went to the trouble of selling all they had to buy oil for their lamps? I wonder how they felt waiting and waiting for their bride-groom to arrive? I wonder how they felt during their waiting when it looked like they had sacrificed for nothing and the 'foolish' virgins seemed to be the ones who were blessed and even wise? But then their day came! Their potential was finally realised! But in the eyes of their bride-groom, this day was always certain - not just potentially certain. The writer to the Hebrews urged his Jewish audience to adopt a similar perspective, and we too would do well to adopt the same perspective so that we do not lose heart and continue to endure with joy. And in the end, your potential is not about you - it's about the glory of God revealed through those yet to be redeemed as we each take the necessary steps toward fulfilling our potential and together as a church we also realise that God has much, much more for us.

How many apples are in an apple seed? The end is not always evident at the beginning. The leader is not always evident in the larrikin. The preacher is not always obvious in the precocious. Potential delights itself in stunning the world. There are some seeds, such as a type of bamboo, that when sown on sprouts a few centimetres, then remains seemingly stagnant for years - except that its roots have been growing deeply and rapidly all that time, so that at the right time it explodes with growth, growing centremetres an hour! That time of stagnancy involved faithful sowing, watering, and fertilising. Be very careful not to misinterpret the times of seeming 'stagnancy' in your life!

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 16 October 2015


Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
Second Timothy 4:11
Generally I believe that a person's past is the best indicator of their future. The general problem with generalities is that there are generally exceptions. And this one is no exception. The reason is that history reveals that nearly every person who achieved anything of note had a past which bore little resemblance to their actual futures. This is good news for people like me and perhaps it's good news for you too. If you've given up on who you one day dreamed you would become, here's some good news: God is in the business of giving people seconds - a second chance, a second wind, a second half.
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
Galatians 1:13
It seems that God loves to sovereignly change the direction of people. Saul of Tarsus is a stunning example of how a person's past bears no resemblance to their actual future (Gal. 1:13). Moses is another example. King David is another example. Each of the faithful disciples is an example. Throughout history we see this over and over. John Calvin, Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Thomas Chalmers, F.W. Boreham, Billy Graham, Ravi Zacharias, all had moments where they got a second go at life. In modern times we see the same thing even among business leaders - Ingvar Kamprad (the founder of IKEA), and Nicolas Hayek (founder of SWATCH) - both men started off their lives in a certain direction which bore little resemblance to how they ended up living their lives. God gives seconds to people. Do you need God to give you second
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
Second Corinthians 5:17
God's seconds don't just begin at our conversion to Christ. To be sure, our conversion to Christ is a dramatic turning point in our lives. Some people claim to have had a conversion experience yet there doesn't always seem to be any evidence of a second in their life. Jesus described this required evidence as 'fruit' (Matt. 7:16). Here's a principle about the seconds which God gives: they are always significantly more fruitful than your pre-second past. Being converted to Christ is not necessarily about 'making a decision' or 'praying the sinner's prayer', it's about what God does in your life and the fruit that results from it. But conversion is not the only second a person can experience from God... 

You may be stuck in life. You may by in a rut. You may have given up. You may have given up on finding happiness, on your marriage, your weight, your addiction to food, your ability to get organised, your pursuit of a job or a better career, or your spiritual progress. I understand what this feels like. I am a pastor who longs to see more people find hope and purpose through knowing Jesus the Christ and connecting in a wholesome way with the community of Christ-followers (the church). Only a pastor knows the pain of disappointment that comes from longing for this to happen and not seeing it. I'm sure I'm not the only pastor who is often overwhelmed with discouragement because our church isn't growing. The temptation that I face as a pastor under these circumstances is to quit striving, cease dreaming, theologise my lack of effectiveness, and surround myself with others who reinforce these God-dishonouring postures. After all, I have served as a pastor at Legana for twenty years and if God was going to grow our church to what I felt He put in my heart in September 1995, surely it would have happened by now? My thinking (and inner discouragement) is galvanised when I go to a Pastors' Conference and hear the amazing stories of how God has blessed some pastors with church growth where a handful of people has grown to thousands of people in just a few years. But then I wonder if God might have a second ahead for us?

HarlandI'm encouraged to think He might when I consider most of those He redeemed in the Bible. I frequently think of a man named Harland (pictured left). He had a dream. He loved to cook. His dream was crushed when he was 40 years old when a highway by-passed his small Indiana café. But he kept dreaming. The Governor of Kentucky loved his cooking so much, he made him a 'Colonel of Kentucky'. Then in 1955 at the age of 65 he began to see his long-held dream come to fruition as his business was franchised across America. In 1960 he sold his business for two million dollars, and the new owners chose to maintain Harland Sander's face in their marketing of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He died in 1980 at the ripe old age of 90 having seen his dream extend around the world and for his face to be one of the most recognised faces on the planet even to this day.
¶ Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that best portrays what the New Testament describes. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that deeply affects and shapes our State's culture. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that gives hope to tens of thousands of people. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that it respects and deems to be beneficial, relevant, and authentic. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that endures hardship, persecution, and opposition and yet remains faithful to Christ, caring for the poor and oppressed, and generous toward the undeserving. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that gives them a glimpse of heaven - where people from every tribe, nation, skin colour, ethnicity, and language, worship the King of Kings in loving unity. Decades ago I committed my life and ministry to doing all I could to see this vision fulfilled. It's why I pastor. It's why I write. It's why I do WayFM. It's why I YouTube. It's why I Tweet. It's why I preach. It's why I get out of bed in the morning! I long for God's second for me, for us.  
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
Revelation 7:9
A major challenge to fulfilling this vision and experiencing our second is openness. Have we closed our hearts, our minds, our souls, to what God could do here in Tasmania? Do we make excuses for God and His inability to build a church and see hundreds more churches planted across our island, because it's never been done before, we're not like the mainland, we haven't got the population, we don't have the resources, or, we're just not that important to God in the scheme of things? Perhaps you do a similar thing with your life? "I've never been able to do that." "I'm not smart enough to learn how to." "I haven't got the money to do that." "I don't have the support I need." "I could, but my wife is too ...." "The economy isn't doing well."

Moses was a washed-up desert goat-herder in his 40s when he remembered his dream to unite his Hebrew kin and deliver them out of Egypt. David was a teenage boy, the youngest of 7 brothers, given the lowliest job of his day - staying out nights on end looking after the family's few sheep, when he dreamed of uniting Israel's fragmented tribes and securing its borders. Saul of Tarsus had a dream of being a great Rabbi and leading Israel back to full devotion to the one true God when he was a young boy. In one sense it looked like each of these sample men had their dreams dashed by life's disappointments. It looked like their efforts in the first half of their lives was wasted effort and counted for nothing. But this was not true. God was honing Moses' leadership both in the palace of Pharaoh and the backside of the desert. God was skilling the warrior in David when he bullied by his older brothers and harangued by wolves and bears as he guarded his few sheep. God was investing into Saul wisdom, knowledge and literature so that he could become the Apostle Paul. The trials, setbacks, and disappointments in your life are not wasted years! God is preparing us for our second half! The farmer who sows his seed in Autumn might despair that Winter has destroyed his potential crops, but then Spring and harvest-time come! Life has its Winters but God also brings about our Springs! This is the second thing about seconds - the more you faithfully sow in the first half, the more fruit you'll harvest in your second! It's my hope that our church is putting as much seed in the ground as possible so that we can reap for Christ as much as possible in the seconds that God gives us!

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 9 October 2015


¶ Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
First Peter 4:19
I was recently invited into a Public Secondary College to give a talk on Cosmology - more precisely, the Cosmological Argument For The Existence of God. When it came time to the Q&A I was expecting some pseudo-intellectual objections to my presentation. But what they all asked surprised me.  
And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.
Malachi 3:15
Now that I think about it, this class of teens listened intently to what I had to say. As much as I'd like to tell you I have a way of captivating teenagers and holding their attention to 90 minutes, I can't. Their attentiveness was flattering but unusual. Then the teacher threw it open for questions. I had prepped up on as much astronomical data as I could muster, so I was armed, ready, and dare I say it, dangerous. But then came their questions.

"Why do bad things happen to good people?" "But why would God allow suffering?" "How come life sucks sometimes?" Each time I deferred to the teacher, because this wasn't why I was invited into her class, but then she relented. As I began to answer this series of questions, it got really quiet in the classroom. I doodled this on the whiteboard-

Life from the cradle to the graveMost people think of life as merely limited to the time between the cradle and the grave. That is, from birth to death. Little wonder then that when someone's life is cut short from their expected time of death, it seems like an utter travesty, a tragedy, a gross injustice. But what if our lives do not merely consist of the time between the cradle and the grave? What if it is, as I continued on the whiteboard, that our lives never end. The grave is not the end. It is merely a change.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison 
Second Corinthians 4:17
The reason we sense such great loss when someone's life seems to be cut short is that there is an intuitive sense within each of us that life is not supposed to end. As I began to explain this, several of the students teared up, and one began to quietly weep. I could tell that this was not merely theory to them. I further explained that our ultimate eternal destiny lay in either of two directions. One of those directions was to defy God's authority over our lives and choose independence and its consequence for eternity, or to choose the other direction which involves humbling ourselves and accepting God's offer of forgiveness and adoption and reaping the gracious consequences of that choice.

After I explained this I summarised the students' questions with a more confronting question about human suffering: Why me!?When someone we don't know suffers, we may feel some sympathy for them but it doesn't affect us deeply. However, when someone we love suffers, we are very sympathetic and even empathetic as we begin to feel something of their pain. But when we suffer, it's not just our pain that we feel, it's also the ache of injustice that is added which we feel deeply. All of this reinforces that we intuitively know something is very wrong with the way the world is.
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."
John 8:24
When we experience pain, suffering, tragedy or injustice and do not have hope beyond this life, we despair. But when we have the confidence that God holds not only the Universe in His hands, but our lives as well, we can trust that He has everything in control for a good purpose. Even when such suffering, crime, pain seems utterly futile, we know that the God-Who-Is-Only-Good is also the God-Who-Can-Only-Do-Good. Therefore, we have a positive expectation for our future (which, by the way, is the definition of "hope").
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.
Romans 8:20
As my time in the classroom came to an end, and the teacher was wrapping up, I slipped to the back of the classroom and spoke to the girl who was crying. She whispered that one of her best friends and classmates had just committed suicide. Little wonder the class was so attentive and sombre. It's sad but understandable that it sometimes takes tragedy for God to get some people's attention. Dark times are not the time to shake a fist at God. Rather, they are the times when we should open our hands to God and ask for His help to get through our dark hour. 

The Apostle Peter writing to the churches of Turkey told them to entrust their souls to their Creator during times of suffering, and not to cease doing good for others (1Peter 4:19). If we suffer and succumb to our Enemy's whispers and withdraw from the family of God and cease doing good for them, we injure ourselves. Our Enemy works tirelessly to isolate us and especially so during our moments of suffering.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
First Peter 5:8-9
One of my favourite singers is Natalie Grant. One of my favourite Natalie Grant songs is "Held". It is about a couple who were excitedly expecting their first child. After much prayer they are finally blessed by God with a bouncing bundle of joy. But just two months after he is born, he falls terribly sick and dies. Natalie Grant sings-
Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that Providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
Were asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
Held, by Natalie Grant
When Peter told the Turkish Christians to entrust their souls to their Creator in the midst of their suffering, it wasn't merely a theory to him. He had seen Jesus The Christ do it. This is the foundation of our hope and the true answer to where is God when it hurts? He entered into it and experienced its worst on the Cross. And just a few short years after he wrote this, he himself showed us what entrusting our souls to God looked like when he was taken by Caesar Nero and tortured then crucified upside down resulting in days of public humiliation and agony then eventual suffocation. No matter what you're going through, entrust your soul to your Creator. No matter how angry you are, entrust your soul to your Creator. No matter what injustice you have been afflicted with, entrust your soul to your Creator. Entrust, even when it hurts.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
First Peter 5:10
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Someone Needs To Find The Baton

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:7
When children become token trophies, society is in deep, deep trouble. These become the children that parents have but don't raise. Because children are designed to be raised they hurt a lot when they are not. And just like the worse kind of problems, the ones that start quietly and unnoticed yet insidiously, this utterly preventable problem only gets any attention when its full-blown cancerous-like traits become so obvious that even its most vocal deniers can no longer ignore it. Someone needs to find the baton.
He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive
First Timothy 3:4
That's an old photoI am writing to parents and would-be parents with this urgent plea: take hold of the baton. And I am especially writing to those parents who are followers of Christ: pass on the baton, for it is a sacred trust

I am mindful of those who are single-parents. I have said it many times, but a single-parent has a tough job because they have twice the responsibility with only half the resources. I could go on to say that those single-parents who have not yet found the strength that can only come from following Christ, and the timely support that can come from being in a community of Christ-followers, have an even tougher job. Given the choice, nearly all single-parents I've spoken with would not have chosen to raise their child/ren on their own. But regardless of whether you are a single-parent or a married parent, I want you to see the baton of responsibility you have. This is not a beat-up-struggling-parents-session. But this might be a wake-up-some-parents-session. Here's my premise about the baton which every parent has: Home-schooling is not just for home-schoolers! I plead with you, stop seeing your children's school, Sunday School, or Youth Group as the place where they are taught and start to see these places as where they help YOU teach your children! 
¶ "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children— 
Deuteronomy 4:9
Two candles. Which one represents the child?Having a child is relatively easy compared with raising a child! And because we live in an outsourcing world, it seems that the incompatible baton-abandoning idea of having children and then outsourcing their upbringing is hardly questioned. The situation has now become dire. Children who should have been trained, as well as taught, by their parents are now suffering emotionally, intellectually, and socially. As a result they are being medicated, counselled, amused, virtualised and duped. And for the most part, much of this is all entirely avoidable if parents parented. 
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4
In his book, Talk with Your Child, Harvey Wiener reports on a U.S. Department of Education study that indicates that American mothers spend less than 30 minutes a day talking with their children; fathers spend even less. Some pollsters report that fathers spend an average of 15 minutes a day talking with their children. Others have found that the average father spends less than 30 minutes a week talking to his children. In his The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease points out that the average adult in this country spends 6 hours a week shopping and 30 hours a week watching the television, in contrast to daily time spent in one-to-one conversation in homes with school-age children. One-to-one conversation averaged 9.5 minutes for at-home mothers, 10.7 for working mothers, and less for fathers.
New York Times
Estimates vary on much time a father spends talking with each of their children. Some research suggests that it's around 10 minutes a day. But if we take our 'utilitarian' talk ("Come here" "Clean up your room" "Do your homework" "Pass the salt" and so on) out of the totals it could even be less than 3 minutes a day! This is dropping the baton and it's got to stop. If you're a parent, you have a rewarding job and you may also have a paying job. Like any rewarding endeavour, it is proportional to effort invested - not just time. A baton holding parent knows that each of their children needs alone time with them as they talk about their worlds. It's important for our children to understand our world just as it's important for us to know theirs. This requires the dying art of conversation - the exchange of heart and mind with another person through the magic of listening. This is often best done at the end of their day, sitting on their bed. And our children also need socialising with their parents - being polite, attentive to, sensitive to, and considerate of, those they are with. This is often best done at the dinner table each night.

As followers of Christ, parents have a sacred charge: to teach, train, instruct, and discipline our children to be be fully devoted followers of Christ by growing their understanding and application of God's Word. This is not your Christian School teacher's job. This is not your Pastor's job. This is not your Children's Pastor's job. This is not your Youth Pastor's job. 
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:9-11
When parents realise that God has given them a sacred baton to pass onto each of their children, they accept responsibility for teaching their children to read, to write, to reason, to express, to do math, to spell correctly, to learn where the countries of the world are, to eat well, to exercise well, to get along with others, to work, to care, to draw, to sing, to play, to share, to be generous, to listen, to apologise, to do science experiments, to learn another language, to discover the past, and to worship the LORD of Hosts. In this light, their child's Christian School teachers, Music teacher, Sports Coach, Pastor, Children's Pastor and Youth Pastor each help the parentto teach their child. 

Parents, you have a baton. Pass it cleanly to each of your children. Read to them. Listen to them read. Let them see you read. (Christianity is a reading religion. Western culture is not.) Read Scripture with them and explain it to them as you go. Help them to understand God's Word. Show them the difference between the Old and New Testaments. Explain how God had one plan of salvation introduced in 'shadows' in the Old Testament and fully revealed in the New. Train them to attend church and how to engage in worship, participate in the ceremonies, and worshipfully listen to God's Word. Model for them what a husband is and does. Model for them what a mother is and does. Let them see the delight and joy in marriage. Demonstrate how to love. Showcase what forgiveness and reconciliation looks like. Present to them Jesus as the centre of your world through your commitment to God's House and your Home Group attendance. Give them a window into your world where your devotion to Jesus of Nazareth affects your effort at work, how you do your taxes, how you talk about your spouse when your spouse can't hear you, how you delay your gratification so you avoid debt, how you sacrifice some pleasures to willingly be a parent and follower of Christ. Fathers, father. Mothers, mother. Pass the baton on. Dads, discipline (not punish) your children (Hebrews 12:8). Mums, nurture your children ( 1Thess. 2:7).
¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2

While the world 'debates' what constitutes a "family" and it's foundation- a marriage - followers of Christ have a wonderful privilege to show the world the answer. This is one of the reasons why Christian parents dedicate their children from a young age to be raised in the ways of Christ. While children as young 11 and 12 are being left to fend for themselves in world gone mad on rights without responsibilities they are being deprived of the loving attention of their father and the complementary loving nurture of their mother. The result is confusion, aggression, depression, isolation, sexualisation, which are increasingly being dealt with by alcohol, pharmaceuticals, synthetic drugs, more toys - anything except what a child really needs. And Christ-following parents can really stand out from this scenario by parenting their children to the glory of God. Consider taking a moment tonight, and the next, to talk with your child. Listen to them. Hug them. Affirm them. Pass the baton to them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it..

Proverbs 22:6
Ps. Andrew